We woke up early, refreshed, ready to go. Well, I was anyway. Dana awoke begrudgingly. Understandably so, as we’d only been asleep for six hours. What is wrong with me?? Why can’t I sleep!? I know it is a mixture of being jet-lagged, and also having an awful lot on my mind.
View from our hotel window, Midtown Manhattan.
We spent some time on the internet (oh, dear me, thank goodness for free wireless), trying to find a place to stay next.
For those of you who do not know, Dana and I are trying to accommodate as much of our 5 weeks in America as we can ‘Couchsurfing’. Couchsurfing is an incredible online community of people all around the world, who offer their homes to host many a traveller. It is a fantastic way to actually get to see a culture, from the people who live it. Of course, it comes with risk. But from where I see it, the benefits certainly outweigh any risk involved.
I do not want to spend 5 weeks staying in hostels full of boring Australians. I do not want to spend thousands of dollars just on a place to sleep. I do not want to spend my trip feeling like I am viewing places, people and cultures from afar.
I want to make new friends all over the place. I want to extend my view of the world. I want to learn about the places I go from the people who actually live there. I want to feel included and involved. And this is exactly what I am going to do. See couchsurfing.org
We sent out a few Couchsurfing requests. We wanted to find somewhere to stay until December 31. On December 31, we were set to stay at our very first ‘approved’ request’s house. Her name is Ione, and we are both really looking forward to meeting her, and spending NYE with her and her friends (yes, I am skipping ahead quite a bit). After finishing some requests, we decided it best to book a hostel for the coming night. As checkout time was looming closer (11a.m.), and we were unsure if we would get any more wireless access over the course of the day to check for potential Couchsurfing responses.
The New York Loft Hostel, in Brooklyn was the winner. More by default than anything else, as all other places I found online were either booked full, or had a minimum stay of three nights.
Suddenly, I heard an excited ‘yelp’ from across our hotel room. Dana was half hanging out our fifth floor window, stretching his arm out to catch the snowflakes gracefully falling toward him. “JESS!!! JESS! JESSS! IT IS SSS-SSSNOWINGGGGGGG” Dana exclaimed, literally like a seven year old on Christmas day.
I love seeing that boy happy. Those who know him, will know what I am talking about. Dana is so completely sincere in every emotional reaction that he has. If he is happy you will know it. If he is sad you will know it. As well as every other possibility in the vast spectrum of human emotion. What a wonderful trait this is. I love this man.
I grabbed my camera and started snapping away.
The excitement of the falling snow sent a jolt of energy to our bones. We were suddenly packed, ready, and appropriately layered to check out of our hotel and spend the day in Manhattan. Dana was excited to visit Central Park, and it didn’t look too far on the google map on our iphone screen, so we decided to walk. Luckily and thankfully, the hotel offered a bag minding service, so we were able to leave our heavy duffel lumps with the concierge so we were free to roam.
As we exited the hotel, onto 41st street, we were smacked in the face with COLDNESS. Oh frick, I thought Japan was cold. The temperature was -4. I haven’t ever felt anything like it in my life. I pulled my beanie as far down as it would go without completely covering my eyes, put my hood up, and wrapped my huge scarf around my face as many times at it would reach. All that was showing of my skin was a tiny sliver of space for my eyes to peek through. Even still, the cold was just shocking. The snow continued to fall, and increased in intensity as the day progressed. The sky darkened, and the wind picked up, sending icy-cold daggers of draft through our clothes.
About half way to Central Park, we took refuge in ‘Trump Towers’. It was so relatively unimpressive, I didn’t even think to get my camera out. We got on the elevator to the next floor, to get a warm drink at Starbucks. I am already feeling the guilty pang of commercialization. Bah. It is however, quite necessary to us. I have no idea how we would be able to do this trip without an internet connection. I am a child of this age. What can I say?
We checked our Couchsurfing account to discover that our request had been approved! A very kind gentleman named Kevin had sent us an email asking for us to give him a call to discuss the possibility of staying with him and his other Couchsurfer from China, Shuying. We were so excited.
We organised to arrive at his house the next day, anytime before noon. He agreed to host us in his apartment for as long as we needed, which for us, was until 31 December. Four whole nights. Dana and I were astounded at Kevin’s kindness in accepting our request, as it was such short notice.
We finished warming up, each drank about 1/3 of our ‘regular’ hot chocolate. (Which, might I add was definitely not ‘regular’ sized at all. It was served in a cup about 20 cm tall. Who has that much room inside of their body??) We then continued on our way to Central Park.
When we finally got there, we were amazed at the beauty of it. The skeletons of trees, black and wet with snow, their branches heavy and white. The rolling hills covered in sparkling ice. The warm yellow glow of street lamps. The cobblestone bridges and tunnels. The tiny birds chirping and playing together.
We threw our backpacks down, and went and romped around in it. I’ve never seen so much snow. And this is Dana’s first time seeing snow ever, so you can imagine our excitement.
We made our way to Dylan hotel to collect our baggage, and then commenced our journey over to Brooklyn. Our next overnight destination. This meant braving an all new subway system. Oh god. At least this time, everything would be written in plain English. Or so we thought. Haha.